Two important events converge this week. The first is our Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, November 26th, and the other is my 60th birthday on Saturday, November 28th. Both of these overlap in a significant way not because of their proximity on a calendar, but their meaning on such a number of different levels. I’ve always considered November a very good month in the Warner household. Both Mona and I were born in November, she in 1954, and I was born in 1949. More importantly, we were both born-again in November of 1970, a month and an experience that forever changed the course of our lives!
The end of October signals the “big 3" of the end-of-the-year holidays. Halloween (which we could do without) with its familiar black and orange colors, which is closely followed by Thanksgiving (“turkey day”), and then the mother of all holidays, Christmas with all the festivities surrounding it. You’ve got to admit that they come pretty quickly, one right after the other. Of all of these, Thanksgiving Day is the one that for the Christian is more than just a holiday, it is to be our lifestyle! (Col.3:15,16)NIV “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. This is the spirit that sets a believer in Jesus Christ apart. Someone said, “A thankful spirit is one of the key distinguishing marks of a Christian. It sets us apart from the world, it makes us different.”
This past Sunday, at the end of the morning worship service, the Church got me! Even though I started to notice some unusual movement near the end of the service, they surprised me with a 60th birthday celebration and tribute. To hear such kind words from numbers of people was very moving and treasured time to me. It reinforced for me some simple but important truths. The first was the value of going the distance with God’s people. That means loving, serving and teaching them through all the seasons of life: the good, the bad and the ugly. I have been very privileged to be able to invest my youth and now my middle years in the service of the Gospel and God’s people at The Door. How do I feel about this? (Phil.2:17) answers it best, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” It also reminded me of the importance and power of little things. In the long run it is not just the big platform that matters, but the little acts of love, of encouragement, of service, and of Christian exampleship that make the difference. The other inspiration I took from this was a desire to get better. “Lord, I’ve still got a long way to go, and a lot to learn....make me more like You, and help me to be a more effective minister of the Gospel.”
Pastor Alvin Smith managed to really speak for me when he told the congregation that the best gift they could give me was their prayers. So true! I was so blessed to have Greg Foster, who used to be a motorcycle gang member come and tell me Sunday that he prays for me and my family every day! Incredible! In a recently-ended Sunday School series called, “Especially Your Prayers” I taught on Paul’s prayers in the New Testament for people and churches. What stood out so vividly was they were informed prayers, therefore they were thoughtful, rich and substantive (not just a vague, “Lord, bless them.”). The second reality throughout was that they were thankful prayers. (Phil.1:3-5) says, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” I can totally identify with those sentiments.
In my brief “Thanksgiving list” there are a few things that stand out about our beloved church fellowship.
We have such a good “line up” in our Church Staff. In putting together a championship baseball team, you must have a good line-up of both pitchers and position players. I’m grateful for our church staff that really does have my back. This also includes the host of people who serve in our congregation with such excellence to meet the huge amount of needs in a growing church.
The incredible workers, church-planters, pastors and their wives who serve in the United States and overseas. I am so grateful for their whole-hearted sacrifice and service to Christ.
I am also thankful for the privilege each week of looking out at the people and the faces in our congregation, each one of them special because they are each a story and testimony to God’s grace and miracle workings! You have made the journey possible, easier, and certainly more enjoyable!
There’s an old hymn that goes, “Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Count your many blessings. See what God has done.” That’s a fine old song and the truth it is trying to convey is a valid one, but it is also an unrealistic song. There’s no way most of us can count all our blessings. There are just too many of them! The message here is that we need to remember that our blessings are so numerous and manifold that we cannot possibly count them all. May that be the backdrop of our relationship with God and with one another, and may we all cultivate thankful hearts. Tony Rascon really summed it up for me the best on Sunday. While we were having some cake and refreshments after the service he was talking to me. He said that God had showed him that what we had was something very special! I agree whole-heartedly. May God help us not to forget that, or take it for granted; and maybe also realize that is why the devil fights it so relentlessly, because it is special and something very powerful!
Happy Thanksgiving To All